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Flimsy 'Pavilion' lacks a foundation

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THE PAVILION Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place; (212) 868-4444. Through Oct. 23.

AN aspiring "Our Town" for our times, Craig Wright's new play lays the cosmic metaphysics heavy over its routine tale of missed romantic opportunities and regret.

But despite some lovely writing and fine performances, "The Pavilion" ultimately seems as rickety as the wooden structure providing its title.

Said pavilion, a 100-year-old dance hall in Pine City, Minn., (the location of several other works by this playwright) is, naturally enough for symbolic purposes, slated for demolition.

Mourning its impending loss are two former sweethearts, Peter (Brian D'Arcy James) and Kari (Jennifer Mudge), who meet again at their 20th high school reunion.

Years before, Peter had abruptly left Kari after he'd gotten her pregnant. Now, aware of her present marital unhappiness, he desperately tries to win her back.

The playwright gussies up that fairly routine scenario via the presence of an omniscient narrator (Stephen Bogardus) who, between delivering poetic pronouncements, plays many other characters.

These include an oddly chipper fellow who's found his calling working at a for-profit suicide hot line; a pot-smoking police chief; and a minister who advises that men, like women and their eggs, have only a finite number of feelings.

A little of this goes a long way, with neither the writing nor the lackluster staging effective enough to bring real theatrical life to the conceit.

Only when the play settles down, in the beautifully acted scene when Peter tries to persuade the bitter and suspicious Kari to run away with him and give their love a second chance, does the evening pack any real feeling.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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